CSAM Model

As part of a review of Collaborative Situated Active Mobile learning strategies: a new perspective on effective mobile learning, Robert Power (2013), I reviewed the theories, strategies, and reflective practices included  in the model.


Modern mobile technologies provide the opportunity for active exploration by learners of all ages. The CSAM model proposes that an engaging and appropriate level of challenge stimulates interaction, but not frustration, in learners. Grounded in learning theory, it puts an emphasis on interactivity on as many levels as possible between learners, content and authentic situations (Power, 2013).


CSAM is informed by models such as FRAME and learning theories such as Activity Theory, the Zone of Proximal Development, Flow Theory and Transactional Distance Theory.

Activity Theory – A system that connects contextual factors, such as individuals, groups, work settings, rules, and tools (Shambaugh, 2009) and enables learners to interact with materials.

Framework for the Rational Analysis of Mobile Education (FRAME) –  A model developed to facilitate the understanding of mobile devices as distance learning tools through a mode of learning that encourages learners to interact while temporally separated (Koole, 2009).

Flow Theory – A learning theory that focuses on what people can achieve when they reach an ideal state of engagement and enjoyment (Csikszentmihalyi, 1998).

Flow Zone – The state of learners who are engaged in an activity that is both appropriately challenging and results in a concentrated focus. (Csikszentmihalyi, 1998).

mLearning – Learning across multiple contexts using personal electronic devices.

Theory of Interactivity – The interaction between learner-content, student-instructor, and learner-learner experienced in a distance learning environment (Moore, 1997).

Transactional Distance Theory – A learning theory that identifies the sense of separation is caused by the cognitive and physical distances between instructions and learners (Moore, 1997).

Zone of proximal development – Identifies the area of learning that occurs when a learner is assisted by a facilitator or peer with a higher skill set. (Chaiklin, 2003).

CSAM in the Context of Learning Theories

Power illustrates the four elements of the CSMA model and their basis in learning theory (right).


The CSAM model places an emphasis on controlling the interaction factor in managing the transactional distance. CSAM strategies include:

  1. Foster social, content and context interaction to enable learners to work together to develop concrete understandings and skill sets in authentic settings in order to satisfy previously abstract learning objectives (Power, 2013).
  2. Utilize mobile technologies and learner interactions to increase the range of learning tasks that students can achieve either individually or in groups.
  3. Enable the balance of challenge and engagement to focus students on required learning tasks.

The selection of learning strategies requires careful consideration of objectives, learner needs and available instructional resources. A strategy’s effectiveness is measured by its fit with these elements and its support from established learning theory.

Reflective Practice

Collaborative Does the design enable students to collaborate?
Situated Is the activity situated in a realistic content?
Active Do the students have an opportunity to engage with the content?
Mobile Are students freed of the traditional classroom?


Chaiklin, S. (2003). The zone of proximal development in Vygotsky’s analysis of learning and instruction. Vygotsky’s educational theory and practice in cultural context. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Csíkszentmihályi, M. (2008). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York, NY: Harper Perennial.

Koole, M. (2009). A model for framing mobile learning. In M. Ally (Ed.), Mobile learning and the delivery of education and training, 25047. Edmonton, AB: AU Press.

Moore, M.G. (1993). Theory of transactional distance. In D. Keegan (Ed.), Theoretical Principles of Distance Education, New York, NY: Routledge, pp. 22-38.

Shambaugh, N. (2009). A Scenario-Based Instructional Design Model. In P. Rogers, G. Berg, J. Boettcher, C. Howard, L. Justice, & K. Schenk (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Distance Learning, Second Edition (pp. 1820-1827). Hershey, PA.

CSAM in Program Revision

The program I am revising is a face-to-face intensive that would benefit from an infusion of appropriate technology. There is currently very low tech in the programs, but cell phones and iPads are ubiquitous with this audience. Because of this, mLearning might be more beneficial than e-learning in this situation. In any case, technology will serve to enhance a face-to-face experience. The program structure already lends itself well to the CSAM model:

Collaborative– (learner/resources, learner/learner and learner/instructor) Participants and facilitators share resources and develop a reference library. Facilitators provide case studies and guidance to enhance rising leaders’ skills and knowledge.

Situated- (learning is situated in a real life professional environment to make the learning more relevant). Case studies and personal situations are part of the current approach.

Active- (learners are actively engaged in constructing their learning experience). Groups build responses to case studies which are presented to and critiqued by other learners.

Mobile– (mobile technology is integrated into the curriculum).  Participants and facilitators regularly utilize mobile devices in their  professional lives.


Author: kathleenlegris

I am an academic specialist working with the Centre for Higher Education Research and Development at the University of Manitoba. Interested in teaching and learning and all things EdTech.

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